Former Webb City teacher pleads guilty to molestation of student

Nicholas Popejoy

A former Webb City Junior High School teacher and coach pleaded guilty Monday to a felony count of child molestation in a plea deal on allegations that he had sexual contact with a student at the school.

Nicholas A. Popejoy, 29, of Arma, Kansas, pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court to a reduced count of third-degree child molestation in a plea agreement dismissing a second count of sexual contact with a student.

Popejoy originally faced a count of first-degree statutory sodomy in the case, an offense that carries up to 30 years in prison in Missouri. Under his plea deal, he would receive no more than 10 years. Circuit Judge Gayle Crane delayed formal acceptance or rejection of the plea bargain and set a sentencing hearing for March 1.

The defendant was a science and math teacher, freshman boys basketball coach and coed track coach at Webb City Junior High School before being dismissed in November 2019 when allegations of sexual misconduct first surfaced. An investigation by Webb City police led to his arrest the same month.

According to court records, Popejoy had sexual contact with a male student under 14 years old on school grounds. A probable-cause affidavit filed with the court stated he touched the boy inappropriately.

The matter was reported to school administrators the same day, and police were contacted.

An investigator maintained in the affidavit that Popejoy posed an ongoing danger to the victim and the community because he had sought to find out the victim's home address and used his position as a coach to approach the boy.

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Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.